Michael Newmuis, named “2026 Director,” hopes to leverage upcoming celebrations to create change

Michael Newmuis, a Black man, stands outdoors in front of greenery. He smiles his hands in front of his body, wearing a navy-colored suit and lighter blue button-down shirt.
Michael Newmuis. (Photo: Rosie Simmons.)

Mayor Cherelle Parker announced yesterday that Michael Newmuis will serve as the city’s 2026 Director — a role named for an historic year, the 250th anniversary of the nation’s founding. In addition to that July 4 celebration, Philadelphia will host numerous highly anticipated events in summer 2026 that will put a spotlight on the city.

“Mayor Parker has set a pretty grand vision,” Newmuis said, sharing that it’s an honor for him to work with such a passionate, talented and trailblazing team.

“What excites me most is that not only are these milestone events opportunities to place Philadelphia on the national stage, but the sunshine of tourism will also hit our neighborhoods and our small businesses. That means job creation, business vitality,” he said. “It also means boosting civic pride for our residents and civic morale. It means that we are giving people even more reasons to believe in Philadelphia.”

One of the events he’ll coordinate that locals can’t stop talking about is Philadelphia’s participation in the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Six of the tournament’s 104 games will be played at Lincoln Financial Field, bringing an estimated 500,000 people to Philadelphia.

The most recent World Cup (2022) earned approximately 1.5 billion viewers. FIFA will expand the number of teams playing in the upcoming tournament — welcoming 48 countries rather than the typical 32, making it the largest tournament to date.

“I can’t wait for Philadelphia to share our energizing love for sports with the world,” said Newmuis, who will also plan efforts to host the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2026. “I love our hometown teams.”

“I think sports brings people together,” he underlined. “Watch out — there’s gonna be a lot of passion. There’s gonna be a lot of energy. But something magical will happen.”

“I think what’s exciting me about 2026 is that we’re all going to be rooting not just for a specific team — it’s also an opportunity to come together and root for our country’s success,” Newmuis said, underlining that it’s especially symbolic to receive global attention as the birthplace of the nation on this milestone anniversary.

“The more we appreciate the magnitude of who we are, the more I think we can use this opportunity in a transformative way to help define the next 250 years,” he emphasized. “I think it’s going to require investing in some shared solutions that will inform the values of who we are as a nation.”

“Growing up in New Jersey, I always thought I was going to be a journalist because I fell in love with stories — specifically the stories of people,” said Newmuis, whose interest in learning about other people — and their neighborhoods, small businesses and community challenges — is a big part of the work he does today and the work he’ll do as he drafts plans for the upcoming events.

Newmuis studied cognitive science at the University of Pennsylvania — which taught him how people think, make judgments and perceive the world. He applied that knowledge at Visit Philadelphia, where he previously served as chief of staff and in various other roles.

There he developed “strategies to not just help consumers and travelers change their perceptions — but also to help Philadelphians change their perceptions,” he explained. “At the core of that is really — how do people understand their place in the world, and how can you help individuals see the meaningful changes they can be a part of?”

The events of 2026 are the “greatest opportunity in modern history to shift the perception that the world has of Philadelphia,” underlined Newmuis, who sees that jam-packed summer as more than a series of parties and events. “It’s really about tapping into people’s perceptions of themselves in the world and helping them to expand upon that in a bold way.”

“Obviously celebrations will be a key part of this. They’ll be a lighthouse that will attract the world to visit,” Newmuis said. “But there’s also an opportunity to form bold new partnerships that will help set the vision for the next 250 years by investing in some of the solutions we know we need to deploy long term, by leveraging 2026 to help accelerate that.”

Newmuis — who previously supported Philadelphia’s hosting of other notable events (including the pope’s visit in 2015, the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and the 2017 NFL Draft) — also spearheaded and supported initiatives that celebrate the city’s diversity. He developed a campaign that drew customers to Black-owned businesses during the pandemic. Newmuis, who is a Black gay man, also helped plan Philadelphia Pioneers on the Road to Stonewall.

Yesterday’s announcement comes less than a week after the 2024 Philadelphia Tourism Outlook, where leaders from the travel and hospitality industries spoke with excitement about 2026 and praised the city as a longtime ally to LGBTQ+ visitors and residents.

“We have a strong track record of inviting people with personal invitations to come visit Philadelphia and concurrently creating safe spaces for them,” Newmuis said. “Philadelphia was the very first destination in the entire world to launch a nationally-televised commercial inviting LGBT visitors to come to see the city.”

Philadelphia constantly built on that — and the more Philadelphia built on that, the more the word got out that people should visit Philadelphia because we’re welcoming of all people,” he said. “It’s in our DNA.”

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